Please Stick To Misinformedly Ripping On Your Own Teams, New York Columnists

It’s been a while since a big-market baseball columnist patronizingly attempted to martyr himself to the plight of us unwashed smalltown folk, so let’s take a minute out of our opposite-of-busy day to comment on the remarks of one Bill Madden of the New York Daily News in his column, “Bug Selig targets small-market teams to spend ” (SIC).

Take it away, Mr. Madden:

In the meantime, the union is far from done pushing this revenue-sharing issue. Next up: the Pirates, who have been the most blatant team of all when it comes to pocketing their revenue sharing, trading off all their highest-paid players and creating a mausoleum of their beautiful taxpayer-funded new park.

Ballpark is nice, Pirates suck — not much here we haven’t heard before. Though for the record, both the Yankees’ and Mets’ stadiums were taxpayer-funded too, and the Mets are receiving roughly 800 skillion dollars from Citi for their ballpark even though Citi was lining employees up against brick walls and Tommy-gunning them to death a year ago, plus the Mets were terrible last year, but golly gee, they spent, so it’s fine.

The Pirates, who have had 17 consecutive losing seasons, have ranked in the bottom four of payroll the last six years.

The Marlins have been below them every year in that span. It’s nit-picky, but that means that the Pirates factually are not the most blatant team about pocketing their revenue sharing money. You’re gonna go back and tweak that previous comment now because of the facts that you yourself brought up, right? You can leave “mausoleum,” it’s a cool word.

Last year, they began the season ranked 28th of 30 teams with a payroll of $48 million but finished at around $25 million after trading off shortstop Jack Wilson, outfielder Nate McLouth, first baseman Adam LaRoche, second baseman Freddy Sanchez and pitchers Ian Snell and John Grabow for a bunch of minimum salary unproven prospects.

Two problems here:

One, as Dejan Kovacevic points out, the Pirates’ payroll ending up at $25 million is irrelevant; they paid most of those guys for at least 2/3 of the year, and in Snell’s case, actually paid Seattle the remainder of his contract and then some as part of the trade. The article also doesn’t take into account the Pirates’ draft expenditures, as they’ve outspent every team in baseball on the draft over the past two seasons, nor does it mention that the Pirates only pared about $7 mil from the deadline deals. They didn’t spend a ton, obviously, but $23 million extra dollars didn’t just magically appear in a cartoon sack with a dollar sign on it that the Nuttings greedily snatched.

Two, the phrase “unproven prospects” is redundant. Is there such a thing as a “proven” prospect? Jeff Clement OPS’d 1.131 in AAA in 2008 in Seattle’s system before coming over in the Wilson deal — that doesn’t mean he’ll automatically be a productive major-leaguer, but what in the world does a prospect have to do to be considered “proven”?

That accounted for $28.6 million in shed payroll, but team president Frank Coonelly justifies the jettisoning of their six best players by invoking the old Branch Rickey line to Ralph Kiner: “We finished last with you, we can just easily finish last without you.”


1) Frank Coonelly never said this, or anything even close to this. You can’t just take a thing that one dude said 50 years ago and throw it in your column then chastise someone else for it. Check this out – Frank Coonelly justifies the trades by invoking the old Governor George Wallace line, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” OMG why would he say that????????? The Pirates are bad!!!!!!!

2) Ian Snell and John Grabow were two of the Pirates’ “six best players”? Ian Snell is a clinically insane 4’11” starter who walks 7 batters an inning — the Pirates are definitely bad, but did you see the team play at all last year, Madden? Have you seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies? Do you know what a pirate is?

Tell that to the Pirate fans who deserve so much better. But have faith, Buc faithful. The players’ union is coming to your rescue.

Thank you so much, big market savior! Us Pittsburgh peasants are so wowed by your advanced New York understanding of baseball, we mistakenly believe that you are some sort of God and are worshiping you! Why yes, we would like some free blankets — thanks!!!

No matter how many company-line-towing articles these New York columnists may crumble up and toss to us win-starved Pirate fans, the fact remains that whether or not the Pirates choosing to trade Jack Wilson two months before he’s a free agent constitutes a misuse of revenue sharing money is a billion times less significant to the sport than the fact that the Yankees are able to outspend every other team in baseball by $100 million. If the Pirates are forced by the players’ union to sign Orlando Hudson and Rick Ankiel for $6 mil apiece and improve their team from 72 wins to 72.0003 wins, will this really in any way alter the league’s competitive balance or even affect it in any wholly meaningful way other than bumping total player salaries by a marginal percentage?

Because “The Yankees spend too much!” is such a tired mantra and because columnists in New York, Boston, and Chicago do stand to benefit from their teams’ increased success and notoriety as a result of a wildly imbalanced economic environment, these half-assed “small market teams need to spend more” columns are becoming increasingly trendy. This isn’t to say the Marlins, or even the Pirates, should be given a free pass for their economic operations — if the Pirates pull another Aramis Ramirez trade, or Neal Huntington blatantly lowballs Andrew McCutchen or Pedro Alvarez when it comes time to pay them big bucks, then by all means, please column away.

In the meantime, us Pirate fans don’t need you to pretend to feel sorry for us because we traded away Adam LaRoche. Can you New York columnists please just stick to articles about Derek Jeter’s humility and how there are Latin people in New York so they should connect with the Mets’ Latin stars? We’d both be a lot happier.


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